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  • Farmers harvest corn in Kyrgyzstan.

    Farmers harvest corn in Kyrgyzstan. | Photo: Flickr / U.N. FAO

Published 15 February 2016

The world's largest social movement, La Via Campesina, and over 100 other organizations called on the U.N. to protect farmers, not corporate profits.

Over 100 rural, environmental, and social justice organizations from four continents slammed the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization Monday for pandering to agribusiness giants and the biotechnology industry and bringing corporate interests into the U.N. approach to sustainable food systems and agricultural production.

“We are alarmed that FAO is once again fronting for the same corporations, just when these companies are talking about further mergers amongst themselves, which would concentrate the commercial seeds sector in even fewer hands,” the organizations, including the world’s largest social movement La Via Campesina, said in a statement on Monday.

"Corporate vision of the future of food promoted in U.N."

The damning statement comes as the FAO kicked off a three-day international symposium on “The Role of Agricultural Biotechnologies in Sustainable Food Systems and Nutrition” in Rome on Monday.

The organizations suggest that the symposium and its lineup of pro-GMO keynote speakers is aimed at ramping up a misguided corporate-backed message that genetically engineering crops are the solution to global hunger.

Meanwhile, small farmers around the world argue that GMO crops and industrial farming displace small farmers, worsen climate change, increase pesticide use, and undermine food security and food sovereignty.

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The organizations also point out that the pro-GMO and biotechnology-focused symposium contradicts the FAO’s own research, which has found that agroecology and sustainable small-scale farming are key to feeding the world while mitigating the impacts of climate change.

In stark contrast to this year’s symposium, the FAO stressed at a conference last year the importance of south-south exchange of experiences, technology, and development strategies to tackle global poverty and food insecurity while promoting sustainable and alternative agricultural practices.

As the civil society statement points out, FAO priorities appear to have shifted and that, “It is high time that FAO gets its priorities clear. Rather than allowing corporations to push their biotechnology agendas, FAO should forcefully pursue agroecology and food sovereignty as the path to feed the world and cool the planet!”

The organizations argue that transnational agribusiness corporations are interested in patenting natural biodiversity to maximize huge corporate profits, at the expense of food security and food sovereignty.

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In contrast to the corporate and profit-maximizing agenda of the FAO symposium, the civil society organizations advocate an approach to food productions based on reclaiming the food system from corporate control and ensuring decision-making authority around food and agriculture is in the hands of those who produce and distribute food, namely the millions of small producers at the foundation of the global food system.

“The vast majority of the world's farmers are peasants, and it is peasants who feed the world,” the statement reads. “We need peasant-based technologies, not corporate biotechnologies.”

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